Hundreds of races have been held throughout Naperville over the years, but it’s safe to say there’s never been any like the one held Sunday.
As the sun came up on a chilly November morning, an army of runners representing mostly Illinois along with at least five others states and even a couple foreign countries took off at 7 a.m. during the first Edward Hospital Naperville Marathon, an event that has been three years in the making.
“The anticipation for this has been building since January of this year, and now it’s finally here,” said Bob Hackett, co-race director, who noted that there was a time when some thought the race shouldn’t be held at all.
“We missed our spot of the event calendar the first time and had to wait for a year. At first, the city wasn’t excited about it, but then they saw what our expertise was and that we were professionals doing this. And now race day is finally here.”
Hackett and others spent days before the race handing out race packets, contestant numbers, press credentials and more. Beyond the euphoria of racing and fans getting to watch family and friends, the event also was held to raise money for charity — and far exceeded expectations.
“We hoped to raise something like $25,000 to $30,000 for the Charity Partner Program, and to date, we’ve gotten $226,000 from our sponsors,” Hackett said. “The support has been incredible.”
Hackett said many runners see participating as a way of giving back to others and that supporting charities draws them to events such as Sunday’s race. Lori Mackey, 36, of Palatine was one of hundreds of runners who said she was running in order to help others.
“I am here supporting St. Baldrick’s and have received $375 in sponsorships from 11 families who want to support cancer research for children,” Mackey said. “I’m running the half marathon today, and this is the third one I’ve done. We definitely need more research for drugs that would help treat children.”
Runners such as Naperville’s Brian Kearney, 54, talked about their pre-race ritual, which included both mild exercise and his own runner’s meal.
“I got up three hours before I race, and go out and jog easily for about five minutes,” Kearney said. “For breakfast, I ate toast with honey and peanut butter and a banana. About a hour before I race, I drink a cup of coffee because it helps metabolize fat.”
Kearney said he began running back in 1993 and has run a dozen marathons in his career. Like Mackey, Kearney said he wanted to run Sunday because it provided “a chance to give back.”
“This is a local event, and I’m going to be leading a pace group,” he said. “My best time is 2 hours and 53 minutes, and I feel like I’ll be able to run today a little bit faster.”
Kari Walker of Naperville likewise had a peanut butter-laced breakfast only hers was smeared on a bagel, along with a banana as well.
“My husband made me breakfast, and then I had some coffee,” she said. “I’ve done three full marathons and six half ones. I’m running with three of my close friends.”
Dozens of runners met up at the Naperville Running Company Sunday morning as the sun came up, including a mother-daughter team sporting running jerseys proclaiming they were “only half crazy.”
“My mom and I are doing this together,” said Carissa TenHoeve, who said she is currently working on a master’s degree in St. Louis, Mo. “This is the first time I’ve done a half marathon, and my only goal is to finish and have fun.”
Carissa’s mother Linda Miller of Naperville said she has been a runner “off and on” during her life and wanted to participate in the hometown race.
“This is the inaugural one, and when we heard about it, we signed up right away,” Miller said. “We ate a bagel this morning and drank some Gatorade, and took some ibuprofen. We’re going to pass the time listening to music on our iPod and talking a little, but I can’t talk much when I run. But like it says on our shirts — ‘running with your daughter’ is priceless.”